Data on UK oil and gas wells is inadequate and needs immediate action, says OGA


One of the regulators of the UK hydrocarbon industry has criticised the quality of information it holds on oil and gas wells.

In a document updated this summer, the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said details on onshore and offshore wells were missing or inconsistent.

Existing data must be brought up to “a bare minimal standard” as an immediate priority, it said.

In the introduction to the document, Basic Wellbore validation, the OGA said:

“For a variety of historical reasons the data that the OGA currently holds (at the end of 2016) about wellbores is inadequate.

“There are missing values and inconsistent attributes that mean the data fails to achieve the minimal standards required to be of value to the OGA and the UK oil industry.

“In order to address this issue the OGA has undertaken a project to drive immediate improvement in the quality of its wellbore data collection.”

“Lack of trust”

The comments raise questions about the standard of regulation of the oil and gas industry, often described by government and industry as “gold standard”.

The OGA said one of its responsibilities was to provide what it called “accurate and trusted data” about the industry. A key part of that was to ensure there was a reliable list of wells and their characteristics, it said.

“In order for any set of data to be worth employing it must achieve a certain minimal level of quality.

“If it fails to do so then the lack of trust placed in the data dramatically reduces the impact it can have. The list of wellbores held by the OGA is an important component in decisions taken both within The Authority and externally.”

The OGA said it intended to create “a comprehensive data standard” for well data in the future. But this was expected to take some time. In the meantime, it said:

“It was felt that a focused project to bring the existing data to a bare minimal standard was the most immediate priority.”

The document, first published in 2016, gives examples of problems including:

  • Confusion about definitions of different parts of a well
  • Use of both feet and metres for distances
  • Different methods for presenting longitude and latitude
  • Incorrect or missing dates

The significance of accurate data was a key issue at two onshore wells reported on by DrillOrDrop in the past year.

Earlier this month, the approved depth of the Ellesmere Port-1 well was the subject of a dispute between IGas and Cheshire West and Chester Council. The OGA’s public wellbore portal has no information about the depth of this well.

In May 2017, DrillOrDrop reported on information from Angus Energy that there had been a discrepancy in well numbering at its Brockham site in Surrey.

Validation tool

OGA wellbore attribute quality issues offshore

OGA validation tool for offshore wells

The licence holder of a wellsite is responsible for reporting data about wellbores.

The OGA said it had created a tool to help companies validate whether the data on their wells is correct. It gives a summary score for the overall quality of data and identifies values that need correction or checking.

The document also outlines what data is required from site licensees and has accepted definitions of key features of a well where data is required.

22 replies »

    • Thanks for the comment, Phil

      The OGA use the word “minimal” 14 times in the linked report, including in the quote attributed to them here.

      The office Chambers dictionary defines minimal as “of least, or least possible size, amount, or degree; of the nature of a minimum; negligible”. So you could interpret “bare minimal standard” as “the least possible standard of data” [needed to enable OGA to do its job].

      Minimal looks like a word which is changing its usage a bit. (US site) defines minimal as “constituting a minimum” but also “barely adequate or least possible” , which may be the sense OGA were using it in.

  1. “The licence holder of the wellsite is responsible for reporting data about wellbores.” Self regulation by those with most to gain by misreporting or concealing the data. Combined with government cuts in resources for the regulatory bodies and regulators who constantly tell us it’s not their responsibility, this is a great basis for Gold Standard regulation.

    • Pauline Jones
      You are correct In that the licence holder has these responsibilities.
      However, the rest of your comments seem to imply that the regulator should do this?
      Can you list a few hazardous industries where the responsibility for reporting ( be it environmental, HS, financial, HR, or gender equality information rests with someone other than the licence holder, operator etc?
      If not, perhaps the much maligned requirement to report information to the regulator is the norm, and has been for years. What is the alternative?

      • It seems clear to me that the licence holder has the responsibility to report clear, accurate and consistent data about wellbores. The regulator, OGA, then has the responsibility to collate and database that information so it can be of use as an “important component in decisions taken both within The Authority and externally.”. Pauline Jones only commented on the first part, along with noting that some licence holders do not appear to be submitting that clear, accurate and consistent data – otherwise, why are the OGA highlighting this problem? Just for fun? Assuming the OGA wouldn’t make such a claim if this was a rare event, questioning the effectiveness of self regulation therefore seems to be a quite reasonable comment. Naturally, licence holders should be given clear and consistent guidance on how the required data should be presented.

        • Mike
          It is the reference to self regulation ‘by those with most to gain from misreporting or concealing data’.
          I do not see how reporting data to the regulator can be considered self regulation.
          I think that, when an issue such as the one reported above appears, then a number of issues are aired being self regulation, gov cuts, regulator inaction and gold standards.
          But in this case, I see no evidence that any of those issues have a bearing on OGA Making sure they get the required information.
          Indeed, if the operator submitting this specific required data is self regulation, what would the alternative be?

  2. It’s interesting to see “Gold Standard” used again, when the EA were asked what “Gold Standard” was they had no idea, perhaps that is because it does not exist.

      • Kathryn
        Do you know why they have minimal data? Maybe that department was not around at the time, and a different gov department had it, such as the HSE ( for offshore wells say )? Maybe they were not involved that much, and the reporting went elsewhere. It does not mean that the data is not there, of course.
        I note that, in the full report, that 90% of the data is OK, so it is the 10% that is causing the problem.
        Now, did the operators not send it, or did the gov lose it? Is the missing data for old wells, or new, is the issue worse offshore than onshore. Are some companies better than others? Is the OGA just getting to grips with its remit ( after all it contains a lot of ex N.Sea types)
        Was the Labour gov asleep at the wheel during its tenure ( boom and bust years offshore).
        The EA may have minimal data for past mining activity, but I am sure it can be found.
        Anyone know the answers, or shall we just jump to some conclusions?

        • Interesting comment about Labour gov asleep at the wheel. Presumably you’re aware that the civil service is (ahem) apolitical. At the level of collecting and collating data, the party in power will have little or no impact in operations, other than in the case of significant cuts in budgets. You could therefore reasonably jump to the conclusion that massive cuts from a Tory govt would have a much greater impact on the regulators performance that Labour nodding off.

          • Mike
            Indeed, I worked for them for a while. In this case, which seems to be one of data reporting over time, there must be a reason why it’s not up to snuff, and given the timescale it cannot be to any recent budget cuts by the conservative gov.

  3. Pauline-who else do you think can do it??? A council operative with a clipboard?

    This is where your objections fall flat. You are so quick to try and find fault within anything-remember wheel washing?-you miss the picture.

    It is only the wellsite licence holder who knows what is being done below ground. The problem that OGA is trying to rectify is that much of the data is incomplete as much is pretty ancient stuff, and it is being misinterpreted now by some who have limited knowledge, or were not employed at the time, and are being played by individuals for their own motives. Sound familiar?

    • Trust… We have learnt not to trust the regulators (box-tickers, fallen angels) Select, unbiased academics. (But they’d ask the wrong ones.) Independent enviro/tech companies? (Depends which side their bread is oiled.) Certainly not the operators, or the snoopers employed and directed by them. Too true, ‘It is only the wellsite licence holder who knows what is being done below ground.’ God help us, no one else will. Except of course JC, following the upcoming GE.

      • It distresses me, Kathryn, to know many people pin faith on a Labour victory, after their election manifesto in 2017 restricted itself to vote-catching mention of a fracking ban, with no mention of “conventiona” onshore and – worse – active endorsement of offshore oil and gas. I was singularly unimpressed with their failure to oppose the Infrastructure Act in principle. They snapped at the margins, but failed to recognise the threat that the legal duty to maximise onshore oil and gas exploitation posed and still poses. I have for some years believed the Tory government pursuit of oil and gas as exemplified in the IA was contrary to the requirements of the Aarhus agreement. I have battered my head against a brick wall suggesting that an Aarhus UN challenge could be as successful as was the 2013 anti-windfarm decision in Geneva.

        JC? Forget it. There is not the backbone there to fight against the union interests.

      • Anyone that supports the phoney JC doesn’t hold much credibility. I am afraid you would be very let down by the dictator JC would finally emerge as, do you not look at world politics and see what happens to countries that have a lefty at the helm? Stop buying into his nonsense.

      • Katheryn
        Who is we?
        Have you spoken to any EA or HSE inspectors? Are that all box tickets and fallen angels?
        Who are the snoopers?
        Drillers also know what is going on underground ( as well as mud loggers, company men, bar staff, wife’s, friends etc etc). They must be a tight community I guess.

  4. This isn’t unusual especially with vintage data from several exploration companies .
    stuff gets lost or considered of no commercial use over time and destroyed .

  5. What a lot of squealing about such a basic concept. OGA are aware there is data which needs updating, much of it because it is imperial rather than metric-that shows how historic some of the information is. Additionally, many of these wells have changed hands during their exploration/operation and that may create a need to update. On top of that, during the same period many of the planners/councillors will have changed and will have similar gaps because of that.

    Instead of welcoming such a basic move some just want to make capital out of it. By such a reaction it can be seen quite easily that the OGA are filling in any gaps and that should prevent a waste of resource in the future-although that will not be their prime motivation.

  6. No mention here by the OGA of The Geological Survey Act 1845 (and subsequent amendments) , which requires companies to notify the BGS of intentions to drill and provide access to take measurements/samples from the borehole.

    I welcome the OGA document in that, as I understand it, it recognizes that the long history of exploration has resulted in various types of data provision and various formats and data of varied quality, as well as missing or incorrect data. Also I welcome is the OGA has developed an e-tool that it will send to data owners so that submitted data are checked and comply with a minimal defined standard. Additional non-mandatory data submission will also be encouraged.

    This is timely as the UK offshore exploration & production is now mature, and data needs to be captured and standardized for modern requirements.

  7. I bet they don’t have the correct TD, KBE, etc, for the Hawkhurst well of 1836, the Netherfield wells of 1873-75, so their database is never going to be 100% accurate.

  8. There seem to be a lot of comments here playing down the importance of this report from the OGA by implying that this is merely an exercise in updating historical data that may have been lost or reported in varied ways.
    So, the OGA said ‘Existing data must be brought up to “a bare minimal standard” as an immediate priority,’ and ‘the data fails to achieve the minimal standards required to be of value to the OGA and the UK oil industry.’ and ‘The list of wellbores held by the OGA is an important component in decisions taken both within The Authority and externally.”
    I’m therefore at a loss to understand why any regulator, no doubt battling for sufficient resources to keep up with a brand new fledgling industry (in this country) would implement such a difficult and time consuming initiative for a largely pointless exercise in ‘updating historical data’. From their wording, the implication to me is that this is of great importance in ‘decisions taken both within The Authority and externally.’ If this is about informing important decisions, that also implies to me that those important and current decisions cannot be made because ‘bare minimal standards’ are not being met in the reporting from at least some licence holders. But then again, I’m basing my interpretation on what has been said and reported, rather than what I would like to convince the general public that it means.

    • Mike
      I think the OGA is doing a fine job, and am keen to know why there are gaps. The graph in the report shows the number of wells for which the data is short. Given the very few wells drilled for fracking, the problem lies in the existing O&G industry, and primarily, it seems, offshore. I see no evidence that the OGA which covers all O&G activities should be struggling with such a small section of the industry, a few wells, none of which are yet in production. I think they are getting to grips with a backlog of historical under reporting, in a number of specific areas. Why there is this gap we ( on this page ) do not yet know.
      The main activity burden will fall on the industry, especially of the wells are old and have passed through the hands of a number of operators. For recent wells, it should be easy, even iff some mistakes have been made it seems.

      Given that most concerns on this page are for recent ( and therefore easily recoverable data ) wells, not drilled next to other old wells ( as maybe from an offshore platform ) then I would surmise that the OGA concerns are more to do with offshore and old wells, not new ones. But I will have to dig deeper to find out.

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